Category Archives: Art Quilt
Now that the disability standards audit is over (and successful), I have a long weekend to enjoy starting with finishing one side of my quilt. I wasn’t sure that any quilting was going to get done as it is not the best activity for 35 degree weather! Thankfully the room wasn’t too hot and with the opportunity to use Bev’s very large specialist quilting machine I couldn’t not! I’m just learning free motion so I went with a wavy and irregular pattern on the brown so you can’t really see any mistakes! It’s much faster doing it free motion than with the walking foot – which is how I’m doing the spirals as my accuracy is not good enough to free motion them. I’ve also attached below a picture of the most of the quilt. Part of the top is missing (as it was hanging over the fence). My next task is to quilt the other brown side and lose all those safety pins.
I’ve finally finished washing out all my dyed fabrics from last Saturday so have moved on to revisiting what I did last Sunday at the Surface Design Workshop with Lisa Walton. Yes, I had 2 days of fabric fun, followed by a week of very long hours. The audit to ensure my employer complies with the disability standards looms ever closer. I use the word ‘looms’ deliberately as I’ve been working towards this for months and it’s a bit of an unknown.
So given this is such a priority, I decided to go for a walk instead! I went in search of any interesting surfaces for some rubbings onto fabric. Unfortunately, this is a little tricky without tresspassing. Mostly I just found manhole covers 😦 (see picture above). Perhaps I need to go for a walk in a more stylish neighbourhood!
Since getting home I’ve been photographing some of the pieces I bought home from the workshops and some that I’ve done since. Of course, the girls have assisted as per usual. Pity they don’t help with policy writing!
Anyway, here are the photos of the fabric from the Dye Workshop. I have NO IDEA what I’m going to do with it. When I took the workshop I thought I would learn how to dye and possibly come home with a few pieces of fabric. There are over 24 fat quarters here (and no – they aren’t all orange, that’s just my camera not cooperating!)
I mostly used the more earthy pigments Lisa had available. When it came to my ‘graduated set’ I decided to use the fuschia mixed with something (I can’t remember what!) Anyway, I quickly discovered it was a little too pink in the lighter versions so I added black to most of the pieces and that’s why my fabrics are a little mottled. I’m still not keen on those really light ones. They scream ‘paint over me!’
I learnt my lesson and avoided the fuschia dye for the rest of the day. (I thought it would be more like alizaron crimson, or quinacridone crimson but clearly not. As it turns out I found that all my paint knowledge is fairly useless when it comes to dye colours – I really couldn’t predict what colour I was going to get (apart from the basic idea of hue). I did try to get an autumnal set and was quite happy with the outcome. Evidently there was a lot more staining power in the warm colours than the green as I ended up with 5 warm to 1 green but I’m not fussed. I like it anyway!
Finally, all the pictures below are either from the Surface Design Workshop or pieces I have done since using techniques from that day.
Lisa has just published the first in an ebook series called Creative Journeys. Last week she was very excited and couldn’t wait for its launch. Well mid-week, it arrived and is now available through amazon or from Lisa directly. It’s on Fun and Easy Textile Surface Design Techniques.
It includes many of the techniques we did last week and some more. Indeed, fabric painting is a lot of fun and pretty easy – especially when it comes to salt and sundyes.
Note the all important “e” in the title of this post. When I arrived at the Dyeing Workshop this morning, one of the other participants recounted how her son had asked whether she really needed to attend a workshop on dying?
With a major project due at work at the end of the month, it’s been a long week. I’ve clocked up 43 hours of work in 4 days and probably could have done without the weekend being booked out with fabric dyeing and painting. I had booked this earlier but due to circumstances the company couldn’t control they had to move it to this weekend.
Despite not being the best timing, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. What a magnificent spring day for dyeing metres of fabric in a stunning cottage garden. I’m terribly eager to bust the fabric out of their little zip lock bag batches and take a look at the fruits of my labour… but I’m told I must wait 24 hours! I have them all laid out – it reminds me of pictures from a police drug bust haul.
The workshop facilitator – Lisa Walton of Dyed and Gone to Heaven – was very friendly, had clear instructions and with it being in her studio, it had a lovely air of hospitality (including home baked chocolate brownies for morning tea).
I gravitated generally towards the more ‘earthy’ colour pigments – what a surprise! – with one of my favourites being the ‘tangerine’. Lisa has warned me that the colours do change once dry – another reason I want to take them out of the bags, wash them off and hang them out to dry.
I do need to put them in a washing machine. I’m debating who will be more receptive to freshly dyed fabric in their washing machine – the mothership or the man? (Yes, yes, I know. Quite ridiculous that after years of renting I still don’t have a washing machine but if I got one I’d have nowhere to put the cat litter trays!)
Looking forward to the surface design workshop tomorrow. Much more familiar territory but confident that I’ll still pick up some tips and tricks. At least with tomorrow, when I get paint all over me it will come off straight away. I have managed to dye a couple of fingers blue. Lisa says it takes about 2 days to come off. I do have a 2 day seminar to run at work Monday / Tuesday. Fortunately many of them are clinical people who are used to getting messy with kids so they probably won’t be bothered by my coloured digits!
One of these days I’m going to pour gravy down Licorice’s ear. Every morning without fail I supply breakfast. I am a loyal subject and feed my 2 furry masters a generous helping. Despite this routine and commitment, Licorice seems to feel that unless she sticks her head over the bowl with great gusto that the food will not land in it. I know the day is coming when gravy will end up in her ear and I don’t really want to explain that to the vet. Perhaps it is this vigorous activity she has each morning that has helped to reduce her substantial girth. The last time the girls both went to the vets there was much cheering when Licorice tipped the scales at only 6 kilos and Saffron at 5.5!
While the girls have been busy losing weight, I’ve been creating a new art quilt for them to distribute their fur on. The first quilt I made is at Andrew’s place. The second I gave to mum for Christmas (last Christmas that is). This quilt is mine. I designed it inspired by Gustav Klimt paintings. I wanted something which suggested a female form but was not pictorial.
While I dabbled in painting fabric for the first quilt I did, this one has had a more concerted effort. It’s been fun making ‘art’ on fabric and then selecting pieces of it to sew into my quilt , together with store bought fabrics.
Above is how it looked last Saturday. I’ve left it with my sewing teacher who is sourcing some woven interfacing to help stiffen the piece before trying to attach to the background. Interfacing or not… I’m expecting there will be a few curse words trying to fit the background into those curves. Still, it will be worth it in the end. A one of kind lap quilt for me to snuggle under… next winter!
It’s one of a kind. My second quilt. My first and final fibonacci quilt – I’ll never make another: I became just too preoccupied with ensuring that I was making things using things which were a number in the fibonacci sequence (1,2,3,5,8,21,34,55 and so on).
The flowers have 55 petals or 21 (part flower). The 55 petals, use 13 colours, each used only 1, 2, 3, or 5 times. The background is 13 columns, of 8 rectangles each and using only 5 fabrics.
As I said, I became a wee bit obsessed.
The ‘finish’ was a departure from the traditional method because instead of a binding, I opted to face the quilt. I’ve faced many dresses but had not quite appreciated how much fabric bulk there was to be in each corner with this method. Still, it was well worth it. It finished the quilt without changing the aesthetic of the quilt. I didn’t want it to be bordered / framed, I wanted it as it was and the facing gave me that effect.
Yet I am delighted with the result. It is a bespoke piece for my parents. Hopefully they will finally ditch some of the hideous lap blankets adorning the couch and use this one instead.
I have no doubt that mum’s cats will come to love it as much as Saffron and Licorice did during it’s making. Yesterday when I was trying to finish hand-sewing the edge, Pickle even decided to take it for a test sleep when I wasn’t looking. He matches the gold in the flowers, I think…
‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ asks Andrew. I think I should reply something sensible. Buying cat food. Tidying the house. Doing the Christmas shopping (my mother has already finished – GROAN). But I don’t feel like doing any of those things. I feel like playing.
Isn’t it odd that a child who doesn’t play is considered peculiar, weird, ‘at risk’ of developing life’s essential social skills, yet playtime as adults is something we sneak into the crevices. If we can disguise our play as having a physical or social benefit, then that’s ok. None of my play does. There is nothing physically strenuous about mixed media painting, or sewing (aside from stabbing myself unintentionally with pins).
I started to write this post by taking the photograph of the partially completed quilt top to the left. I then hopped across to the daily prompt at WordPress to check out the theme. It’s a daily prompt that I use maybe six weekly! It was playtime. It surely must be a sign from the internet gods that it’s ok not to do all the things I should be doing today. (Why are your cats going hungry? Because WordPress said it was ok!)
Some people would consider Christmas shopping ‘playtime’. For me, it is when I’m inspired… but right now I’m out of ideas and that’s the problem with a deadline. My creativity doesn’t work to a deadline and I suspect many others don’t either… otherwise they wouldn’t have invented the gift card.
The quilt above has been an on again / off again project. It has been interrupted for at least 3 other items. It has one flower / mushroom / leaf / [insert whatever you call that thing here] to go. Unfortunately it must have 55 strips, using 13 different coloured fabrics. It was my dressmaking teacher who started this fibonacci number lunacy and now I am almost there I cannot skip out on it now. This will be my first – and last – fibonacci inspired effort.
I can see why people make quilts to patterns. Of course there’s the obvious benefit of knowing what the next step is, yet, I was thinking more about fabric planning. Throughout this quilt I find myself rummaging through my sewing bag counting up small strips of colour in an effort to ascertain how many more strips I need and of what colour.
Of course my squirrelling, resource hoarding brain is already planning what I can do with the leftovers. I was painting the other night and had collaged on a woman with a ‘fright’ plastered all over her face. As the only other thing in the piece was a butterfly, I felt this looked rather stupid. Andrew face-timed me in the middle of my pondering. (Is face-timed a word?).
‘I can’t find what I’m looking for… I want a gargoyle I think!’.
Seizing this opportunity he says to me – ‘See, you have too much stuff.’
‘No! I have not enough!’
The postscript to that particular story is that I found a dragon, only to have a paper transfer failure. (See that mottled dark patch between her and the butterfly… that is the failed dragon. More like a decomposing dragon… hmm… wouldn’t that be smelly???)
Hmm… now I have lost my train of thought. What is a train of thought anyway? I’ve got an image of a freight train carrying alphabet soup in each carriage… ok… I think I’ve lost it now. Whatever piece of sensibleness this blog post had at the beginning is now truly up the creek with a beetroot and ham sandwich! It’s time to play for real instead of with words.
Oh… and buy cat food.
It was almost a disaster. I lost the 55th piece of my fibonacci flower. Some people may have just decided that it had to stay with 54 pieces but I could not. I hunted through sewing bags; down the back of my sewing cupboard, under the sewing machine, on the floor, in the scraps. I was looking for a piece of fabric about 3/4″ wide. Once I stopped looking, I found it.
At the moment, the flower looks a little silly as it is without stem. That piece of gold and orange batik will be reduced once the stem goes on. I tried two methods of ‘needle-turn’ applique for the main pieces. The first I stitched the line on the sewing machine and then clipped and turned under with the iron. The second – the gold one – I used a palette knife and glue stick. This is because I’m not very safe with an iron – or at least my fingers aren’t!
And on a completely unrelated subject, here are the girls, grooming themselves simultaneously. I often think to myself when Cat Protection Society said they were inseparable, they were absolutely right. In this short video they even turn to each other’s name! (Saffron is on left, Licorice on right).
Recently I was fiddling around with some fabric and ended up creating these ‘mushrooms’ by hand stitching using perle cotton. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them but I had an idea to incorporate them into a small lap quilt.
After some pondering and meddling by my dressmaking teacher, the idea of a Fibonacci Floral Lap Quilt was born. I loved the lines in the ‘mushrooms’ and wanted to use the colour of this background fabric (a faded grey-green to blue; not unlike the leaves on some wattle trees) in ‘strips’.
I daresay a sophisticated photocopier may have come in handy here and an extra big piece of paper. However I adopted the thrifty method. My piece of paper is in fact 6 pieces of paper stuck together with masking tape. With a ruler and a pencil, I carefully enlarged the drawing to actual size (about 18.5″ X 20″ – no there’s nothing fibonacci about the dimensions!)
Step 2: Dividing the Flower by the fibonacci number
You may be wondering where’s the fibonacci piece of this quilt. It’s coming! As I was choosing fabrics, it was suggested to me that I should try to use fibonacci numbers (e.g. 2,3,5,8,13,21 etc). I knew that I wanted the fabric pieces to probably be between 1/2″ and 1.5″ in width. So I had a choice – 34 strips or 55. The former made the strips far too fat. So I had no choice but to try to divide the flower outline I had drawn into 55 strips without making any of them too small to sew and also trying to vary the widths as I went along so it didn’t look too predictable.
Step 3: Selecting fabrics and cutting strips
So I now had a template of 55 strips, and 13 fabrics selected. (13 being a fibonacci number). The next challenge was whether I could use on a fibonacci number of each fabric within the 55 strips. Now any person halfway decent at math would be able to figure this out quickly. I have to confess that it took me a while.
The end result is:
- 2 fabrics at 2 strips each
- 2 fabrics at 3 strips each, and
- 9 fabrics at 5 strips each.
Of course, while you are laying out your fabrics and deciding the order, cat help is critical! Licorice supervised. For once she didn’t ‘help.’
By this point, I was chuffed that I had managed to use only fibonacci numbers – 55 strips, 13 fabrics of 2, 3 or 5 instances each. I was also starting to wonder what the point was. Dr Google told me that fibonacci numbers are common in nature – in Irises, sunflowers and pine cones and they were naturally pleasing to the eye. Oh well… it was worth a go.
Step 4: Tracing the template onto stitch and tear
When it came to tracing I cheated and used a lightbox. Saffron thought she’d help be sitting on the lightbox. Unfortunately, the lightbox is not designed for a 6 kilo cat, so I had to continually kick her off for fear the perspex was not going to withstand her weight – it’s loose as it is!
Step 5: Critical. After cutting the pieces. Drop them.
It really would be no fun if you didn’t have to put them back in order at least once!
Iron pieces onto the back of the fabric strips.
Step 6: Trim them up!
I left 1/4″ seam allowance on the long sides and a very rough half an inch or so on the stop. I figured I could always tidy up the ends later.
Meanwhile in cat land, a territory dispute is at play. I bought a cheap cat bed from the $2 store. They only had 1 in this size. Licorice and Saffron both want to sit in it. Generally, they seem to alternate – every now and then one ‘hijacks’ it from the other. Tonight, Licorice wouldn’t give it up. So Saffron just sat on top of her!
Ah Sunday. Ability to get in car, drive to parents house to steal their internet and type a blog post with a keyboard rather than one finger on a mobile phone! The one benefit of no internet is that I’ve actually spent time I would normally spend on the internet sewing! Well, the sewing part hasn’t been extensive. Think more cutting out, testing, tossing and trying another technique. In the quilt I just finished the only applique was raw edged applique. In the case of the squirrel and the doves, I was lucky enough to get Kim from Applicuts to use her laser to cut them and this seals the edges and they don’t fray as much. In the case of the little gecko I had to fussy-cut him and then blanket stitch him within an inch of his life by hand so he didn’t fray. So I decided to give ‘needle-turn’ applique a go. Who knew there were so many ways of doing it?
A little internet research shows you that many people do needle-turn applique using freezer paper. Some use freezer paper in combination with starch to crisp up the edge. Any technique which involves cutting out shapes, ironing them, stitching around them, only to then have to leave a hole and fiddle with tweezers to pull out the bit of paper, seems a bit… well… annoying. Pull the paper out? Bugger that! I wanted a method I could leave the ‘template’ in.
I tried just using an iron to turn my edges. Fail.
I tried using a basting stitch on the machine. My little wisp of fabric got eaten by the feed dogs.
I traced my shape on the fabric and before cutting it trying the basting stitch… it wasn’t the smoothest and too time consuming!
I ended up using a method pretty close to the one described by Rachelle Denneny in a demo DVD I got at the newsagency. (I’d give you a link to her website, only I can’t find one!)
I deivated a little, but not much.
- I used the Floriani leave in fusible wash and wear interfacing that she used. This is going to sound strange but I found it both stiffer and softer than vliesofix – and the backing doesn’t seem to edge itself away from the glue piece with repeated handling.
- I ‘pleated’ my outer curves with a palette knife rather than a cuticle stick (there are more art supplies in my house than nail care implements).
- I did cut my ‘notches’ on the inner curves to ease it in first because I put the glue on the back of the interfacing, rather than the bit I was turning.
- I didn’t assemble my pieces as a ‘whole unit’ with glue like she does, I put them down one by one. This was probably due to impatience on my part as I hadn’t cut every bird feather at the beginning – I didn’t even know if it would work!
- Rachelle has a masterful skill in machine qpplique and free motion work (she has won awards for her quilts in Australia shows as well as in Houston). I’m guessing that she has had thousands of hours practice. I’d be struggling to notch up 2 hours, so I hand slip stiched my feathers down!
The best part about this for me was being able to use a palette knife and a glue stick to turn the edges rather than an iron. I’m a bit of a gumby and had already had a few moments of ‘quickly dancing’ fingers as I got too close to the iron.
Of course when I fronted up at dress-making class with my creation, my incredibly knowledgable teacher quickly produced an alternative to all my tracing on the curves.
Using bias and bending them into shape would have been easier.
‘Oh I did think of that’, says I defensively. ‘It wouldn’t work because my pieces are different widths at different points and I didn’t want to have a seam at the end for the spade shaped piece.’
Of course, this is Bev. She has decades of experience. She had an answer for this one too!
Well then you just make bias as wide as the widest part of the bulb and then cut it back.
Hmm. I’m not sure how good an idea it is to tell a woman who has spent considerable time drawing curved shapes that it would have been easier to just bend them in. Then again, this is Bev. She’s nearly always got a better way. (We just don’t tell her that too often).
I am still without internet. I am not happy. Telstra decided – in their infinite wisdom – that the problem was solved and so cancelled my appointment. When I told Optus to tell Telstra that it wasn’t fixed, they said that the appointment I had for the 29th of April was now going to take place on the 16th of May! Optus guessed right that I wasn’t going to be happy with a further two week delay, so hassled Telstra some more until they coughed up a date of 6th of May. Still another week I have to wait because of their mistake. Frustrating as hell.
I’m writing this from Andrew’s place. While at home with lack of internet, I can neither work nor do half the internet surfing I normally do. Instead, I’ve been sewing. A dress is taking shape. I’ve started on ideas for a lap quilt including this piece of fabric that I’ve embroidered.
Saffron has recovered from her cystitis just in time to ‘assist’ with the sewing.